It becomes immediately apparent that the developers at Heavy Spectrum wanted to put their all into the reimagined Shadow of the Beast. Who else would have brought a game back, that not too many remember, 25 years later without a compassion, an understanding, and a clear vision for the love of the original? Shadow of the Beast shares a very strong symbolic message of free will told through linear paths and abstract storytelling. There isn’t much of anything new to find in this semi-puzzle-platformer, but every game doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel for it to be fun. By the end of the first level you’ll get a clear understanding of what Heavy Spectrum were going for and hopefully appreciate it as much as I did.
For those who’ve been looking for an over-the-top, bloody, side-scrolling, puzzle-platformer, this game is definitely for you. Being created by a seven-person team, Shadow of the Beast looks and feels like a classic indie title rather than a strong triple-A, first party game. Again, that doesn’t really hurt it much in the way of fun as it accomplishes everything the team set out to do with it: simple platforming mechanics, linear level layouts, cool fighting styles, and traditionally simple puzzles to solve along the way. As many indie titles go, however, you won’t find an extensive story to follow; and what story is there has to be unlocked — I’ll discus this later on. You’ll play as the beast Aarbron in the fantastical world of Karamoon where magical realms come to life and enemies are intense and fun to rip to bloody shreds.
"Combat in Shadow of the Beast is actually rather diverse with an extensive range of different melee attacks both ranged and hand-to-hand."
Combat in Shadow of the Beast is actually rather diverse with an extensive range of different melee attacks both ranged and hand-to-hand. You won’t find any guns in this game but the tight attack controls just make it fun enough to where you won’t even be thinking about guns by the end of the first level. From basic attacks, counters, stuns, throws to special attacks, evades, dodge rolls, and a few more, learning these attacks, and using them when you have the appropriate amount of blood — gained when an attack lands on the enemy — will take time. There are seriously a lot of attacks to remember. Luckily the attack controls are in the Options screen. By landing an attack during a “perfect window” you will gain extra score that adds up to points for spending on other items after each level.
Along the adventure you will come across several different enemy types ranging anywhere from human, bug-men, and other worldly beasts. These enemies are often a breeze to take down though every so often you’ll run across one that has a little gimmick — such as “block” enemy projectile once before being able to attack it, etc. After completing each location Aarbron will encounter a boss fight. Boss battles are fun, though slightly scripted. There are only certain moments when Aarbron is allowed to attack. Even if the boss looks defenseless, attacking does nothing until the game allows you to attack; and even then before you land a hit, the boss’s health meter will drain HP. Yes, that sounds a bit strange, that your attacks do the same damage on a boss no matter which one you choose as it is already predetermined. However, the boss battles were fun and exciting, and most of them looked pretty cool.
"Overall, Shadow of the Beast still holds that classic platformer feel and style with linear paths, standard musical tones and tunes, and a lot of blood spilled all around."
The platforming and puzzle elements of Shadow of the Beast are fine for an indie title, but don’t go in expecting Super Mario level complexity. Starting out practically running from left to right you’ll soon learn how to jump, climb and descend various walls and platforms throughout each level. Switch flipping, and portal travel are key puzzle elements that show the simplicity behind this game. I found them a bit too easy, but they were fun for what they were.
Upon finishing each level the players will be given the option to visit the Wisdom of Shadows. Simply put, that is the character leveling up screen. Points you’ve earned while playing through the campaign become spendable and allow you to choose from many different items — many of which aren’t even character related. From gaining health, to collecting extra blood for attacks, to even unlocking the original (albeit emulated) Shadow of the Beast. As I mentioned earlier the story has to be unlocked and the Wisdom of Shadows holds its meaning. While playing through the game you’ll get undecipherable dialog subtitled in what looks like alien font. The only way to follow the story is by deciphering the cut scenes visually. By unlocking story content through Wisdom of Shadow story translations, the subtitles will then become deciphered, but to unlock everything that’s spoken could take upwards of hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of points. I don’t know why they developers thought hiding the story behind an unlock wall was a good idea — maybe to add replay value?
Overall, Shadow of the Beast still holds that classic platformer feel and style with linear paths, standard musical tones and tunes, and a lot of blood spilled all around. If you enjoy platforming as much as I do, you should get a kick out of this game, especially if you enjoyed the original.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Awesome melee abilities, lots of secrets to find, a fantastically realized world, very bloody boss battles.
Paths are dull and linear at times, having to unlock content with steep points, staged boss battle attacks are lame, enemy attacks don't vary much.
Shadow of the Beast is a passion project that works and runs really well. It still manages to somehow hold that classic platformer feel and style.
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